He is in negotiations to star as the real-life con man Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter, the subject of The Man in the Rockefeller Suit: The Astonishing Rise and Spectacular Fall of a Serial Impostor by Mark Seal (PRH/Plume, 2012). Kirkus said of the true crime story, “Patricia Highsmith couldn’t have written a more compelling thriller.”
Gerhartsreiter, who went by the name of Clark Rockefeller, tricked people into believing he was a member of that famous family, helping him to land prestigious jobs on Wall Street and marry rich. He was sentenced to jail after kidnapping his own daughter and was subsequently sentenced to prison for the first-degree murder of his landlady’s son.
A long simmering project, the film first got under way in 2011, but the recent interest in true crime may have given it a fresh push.
Finch calls it “exceptionally entertaining … a cross of literary fiction, thriller and mystery” that reads like “early Ian McEwan or late Patricia Highsmith.”
He says that Lasdun cleverly crafts the story, “His clues never seem like clues until they bind tightly around one of the three leads” and that the novel is “exactly what a literary thriller should be: intelligent, careful, swift, unsettling.”
He calls it “superb” and says that Langan “manages to sustain the focused effect of a short story or a poem over the course of a long horror narrative.”
Rafferty continues that the novel is “unusually dense with ideas and images” and full of “elegant prose.” In the end, he says, readers feel a “sad urgency on every page” of this “strange and terrifying” tale.
Jeffrey Toobin wrote the definitive book about one of the highest profile crime of the 1990’s, The Run of His Life, about O. J. Simpson. The popularity of two recent TV series on the case, one of which is based on that book, demonstrate there is a strong interest in revisiting such stories.
Going back even further in his latest book, Toobin takes a new look at the story of the 1974 kidnapping and arrest of Patty Hearst: American Heiress: The Wild Saga of the Kidnapping, Crimes and Trial of Patty Hearst, (PRH/Doubleday; OverDrive Sample).
Following in the footsteps of Toobin’s O.J. title, Deadline Hollywood reports film rights were acquired prior to publication.
Libraries ordered the book modestly and holds are growing as a result of media attention. In an almost hour long conversation on NPR’s Fresh Air, Toobin talks to an enthralled Terry Gross about the case.
Hearst was the 19-year-old granddaughter of the famous newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst and while her case was a sensation at the time, Toobin found that nothing new had been written about the case in decades and decided to investigate it again.
Placing the story in its time, Toobin calls the period a “toxic, dangerous, scary time in America. … During the early and mid ’70s, there were 1,000 — 1,000!— bombings a year in the United States … [due to] a violent political culture.”
In this environment “the Symbionese Liberation Army, a small, armed revolutionary group with an incoherent ideology and unclear goals” kidnapped Hearst – at a point in her life where she was at “a particularly vulnerable and restless moment in her life … uniquely receptive to new influences.”
Against the standard story line that Hearst was brainwashed or suffering from Stockholm syndrome, Toobin argues that she “responded rationally to the circumstances she was confronted with at each stage of the process” and joined her kidnappers in their crimes.
Under her own power, says Toobin, she committed real harm, “She robbed three banks. She shot up a street in Los Angeles. She helped plant bombs in several places in northern California.”
Toobin says she “had multiple opportunities to escape over a year and a half. She went to the hospital for poison oak and she could’ve told the doctor, ‘Oh by the way, I’m Patty Hearst.’ She was caught in an inaccessible place while hiking and the forest rangers helped her out, and she could’ve said, ‘Oh by the way, I’m Patty Hearst.’ She didn’t escape because she didn’t want to escape.”
She was eventually captured and sent to prison for 7 years, but only served 22 months before President Jimmy Carter commuted her sentence. President Bill Clinton pardoned her years later. Toobin calls both actions “the purest example of privilege on display that frankly I have ever seen in the criminal justice system.”
In her advanced NYT review, Janet Maslin writes, “As Mr. Toobin sees it, Patty — now Patricia again — was always an adroit opportunist, never a deep thinker, and remained an artful pragmatist under any circumstances.”
The Washington Post calls it “terrific” and “riveting” book, a “lurid crime story with its own toxic mix of race, class, celebrity and sex.”
The many fans of the podcast SERIAL may not have realized they owe thanks to Rabia Chaudry, a woman who has worked tirelessly to free her friend Adnan Sayed from prison. Believing he was wrongly accused of murdering his high school girlfriend, Chandry approached Sarah Koenig of This American Life in hopes of bringing more attention to the case. The result was the podcast, which became a huge success.
SERIAL did not arrive at a definitive conclusion on Sayed’s innocence or guilt. He is still imprisoned and Chaudry has not given up. She will publish a book in September, Adnan’s Story: Murder, Justice, and The Case That Captivated a Nation (St. Martin’s Press). Entertainment Weekly reports it is being written with Syed’s cooperation, quoting him from a press release, “As someone connected to me, my family, my community, my lawyers, and my investigation, there is no one better to help tell my story, and no one that I trust more to tell it, than Rabia.”
Available for pre-sale now on Amazon, it is already #17 in the True Crime Biography category.